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James Knox wants to help Remco Evenepoel win more grand tours

British climbing ace sees new opportunities to show his worth in the mountains as part of a growing 'Remco Express.'

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British climbing ace James Knox knows exactly where he wants to be the next few years, and that’s right beside Remco Evenepoel.

Or, especially when the road tilts upward, right in front of him.

Evenepoel’s sudden rise to grand tour prominence provides a golden opportunity for Knox to develop into a key climbing asset for the budding Belgian superstar at Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl.

“I’ve done races with him the past couple of years, where I’ve supported him,” Knox said in a recent interview. “I know that role quite well, and there will be opportunities in the future to be there for him in the grand tours to support him.”

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The 27-year-old Knox joined Quick-Step in 2018, and quickly emerged as one of the team’s most consistent climbers.

On a team long renowned for its classics acumen, Knox’s climbing abilities were sometimes not fully utilized. His 11th overall at the 2019 Vuelta a España and 14th at the 2020 Giro d’Italia confirmed his climbing chops, but he’s yet to elbow his way onto the Tour de France squad.

That’s due to change with Evenepoel winning the Vuelta a España in spectacular fashion, and his growing ambitions that reach toward future success at the Tour.

Knox is hoping there is room for him on the Remco Express.

“The plan for me was to be at the Vuelta with him, but things got changed around for myself and I didn’t end up going. I did the Giro instead,” Knox told VeloNews and Cyclingnews.

Knox said it was no surprise to him that Evenepoel delivered on the hype on a spectacular season that also saw victories at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Clásica San Sebastián as well as the world title in Wollongong.

“I think everyone on the team knows what he’s capable of in terms of training and what he’s done in one-day races, but to actually do it in a grand tour, it’s not a surprise, there’s also a bit of a shock and awe in the way he did it,” Knox said. “He’s only 21, he delivered on the hype and everything, everyone’s been putting a lot of pressure on him.

“So you have to say chapeau to him for that. He’s delivering with his legs.

“It’s a massive achievement for Remco and the team,” Knox said. “After 20 years to finally get a grand tour for the team, and for Belgium. The [fans] are all going mental for it after waiting more than 40 years to get a grand tour victory.”

Knox admitted he had a choppy and rough 2022 campaign.

“It’s been a bit of a difficult year for me, it wasn’t fantastic. I had problems at the start of the year, and I never got going well enough,” Knox said. “I was at the Giro, but I just didn’t have the legs. I felt better in the second half of the season.

“More of the experienced guys will tell you that sometimes it’s your year, and sometimes it’s not. Especially with the level getting so much higher, there’s not much margin for error now,” Knox said. “That seems to be the crux of it. If you’re not one of the big stars like Remco, those guys can deliver when they are not at 100 percent, but a guy like myself, you really have to be 100 percent to be up there in the races.”

‘Some guys will want to get on the gravy train’

Knox, pictured here at Coppa Bernocchi, is one of the team’s best climbers. (Photo: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Knox has watched with interest as team boss Patrick Lefevere has slowly built out the squad beyond its traditional classics roots and sprinter-focused goals at the Tour.

Riders like Julian Alaphilippe added a new dimension, and the early than expected arrival of Evenepoel as a grand tour force only reinforces the team’s changing DNA.

“You can see the type of riders the team’s been signing the last couple of years that already suggests that they’re trying to get guys to come to the team with the idea of support for the grand tours,” Knox said.

“Thankfully we already had some strong guys, like [Dries] Devenyns and Pieter Serry, who could already do that job fantastically well, and they added some support with [Fausto] Manzada and Louis Vervaeke, and [Ilan] Van Wilder. We do have some climbing guys now, and it will be a bigger attraction for guys to join the team, especially with Remco delivering now.

“Some guys will want to get on the gravy train, so to speak, with Remco challenging for more and more grand tours in the next five years or so,” he said. “I can imagine that Patrick will try to strengthen the team in that regard.”